The Gravity Of Film

It’s often debated – both in film-making and wine – to what extent technology has improved or damaged the art.

When I go to the cinema, I often feel assaulted rather than entertained by the high-volume sound, frenetic activity and intensity of colour and movement. Everything is being taken to extremes in the movies, as though film-makers feel a need to impress us every moment. Is it because of our perceived poor attention-spans; a belief that that’s what it takes today to entertain people who are constantly so bombarded with images and sound that they’ve become inured to it? 3D is used to ratchet the whole thing up to even more absurd levels.

I recently watched the 1962 John Ford western ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ and was struck by the fine quality of film-making. Yes, the acting was good: James Stewart and Vera Miles did a fine job and Lee Marvin excelled as the villain Valance, while John Wayne was his wooden but very watchable self. But the photography and shot-composition were outstanding, the use of black-and-white far more evocative than colour, even if it had been available. This classic has not dated. The quality of script-writing, complexity of plot and the way the story-telling proceeds leave nothing to be desired. Directors like Ford did a lot with a little. These days, film-makers often achieve less despite their technical sophistication.

So it was with some scepticism that I went to see ‘Gravity’. I was pleasantly surprised: for all its 3D hyper-realism and amazing technical sophistication, this is a riveting story, visually beautiful, and superbly acted and directed. It doesn’t labour its technical wizardry: technique is in the service of the story-teller; the tail does not wag the dog.

George Clooney plays George Clooney, as he does increasingly, and Sandra Bullock’s character – who must be the luckiest astronaut who ever lived, dodging showers of meteors and space junk and more while sustaining barely a bruise – gives a wonderful performance. It’s a great movie. 

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